The Writing Studio: Putting in the Stakes
To put a stake in the ground. It’s a simple act, yet imbued with so much meaning. Today, after several years of casual discussions, Dad and I walked down to the southeast edge of my parents’ five acres and put not one, but four stakes into the ground to indicate the four corners of my future writing studio. The stakes are temporary, but as Dad hammered them into the ground and I walked from stake-to-stake with a tape measure, almost immediately we both started envisioning what would come next–the double pane windows, the south-facing views, the built-in bookshelves, the private back deck and small front porch…
The mind races much faster than reality, of course. The building we’re planning will take several years as time, our physical labor, and budget for materials allow. We intend to build a 16’x16′ simple cabin with a sleeping loft. No bathroom or plumbing early on, but insulation, electricity, and a wood stove. My parents’ own house has one spare bedroom, so building the writing studio has the dual purpose of housing guests (c’mon, cousins!) as well as my writing life. As Dad put it, “When you’re home, the place is yours.” Aside from a private place to write and sleep, my parents have also decided that this will be a place I can put my things. Meaning: unpack. Meaning: not have my life in boxes or in my car. Meaning: a place to settle down for a while if I so choose. After 24 months on the road and with another year of travel ahead, the idea both thrills and frightens me. More than anything, it fills me with gratitude.
Many people have said that reading Thoreau changed their lives and that doesn’t make it any less true for myself. When I read Walden at sixteen, I was ready for change. The path Thoreau set me on is still the one I walk today. To believe, despite most common and societal advice, that I can and will earn my living as a writer. To believe that I can live peacefully yet without isolation, that I can see beauty no matter where I am, that my life choices can make positive social and political impact through the activism of engaged daily living. These are maxims I base my life decisions upon. They are my foundation. Perhaps Thoreau said it more succinctly when referring to his time at Walden Pond, “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Today we put four stakes into the ground. We stood where the windows of my writing studio will be and gazed at this view of the Black Mountains and Pisgah National Forest. We selected three trees that need to be felled before a foundation can go in, and that seemed more than enough. But as we turned to go back up to my parent’s house, Dad looked at me and said, “Well…Do you want to start now? We could cut that hemlock down.”
He didn’t have to wait for my answer.